Archiginnasio Palace, Bologna

Archiginnasio Palace, Bologna (must see)

Just past the Archaeological Museum lies the historic Archiginnasio Palace, constructed in the 1560s as the first permanent home of Europe's oldest university. Prior to its erection, the faculties of law and medicine were like lost socks, scattered across various sites within the city. The palace served as the university's headquarters until 1803, when it relocated to its present site on Via Zamboni. Presently, it hosts the esteemed collection of 800,000 works of the City Library ("Biblioteca Comunale"), the lavishly decorated Sala dello Stabat Mater, which once hosted Rossini's inaugural Italian performance of "Stabat Mater" in 1842 under the baton of Donizetti, and the captivating Anatomy Theatre ("Teatro Anatomico").

The elegant courtyard, with its fancy double loggia, along with the staircase and halls, are decked out with tributes to the big brains of the ancient university, alongside some 6,000 student coats of arms. This courtyard often served as the backdrop for university ceremonies, including the intriguing Preparation of the Theriac, a medicinal concoction for animal bites and later a panacea, developed by the Greeks in the 1st century AD, comprising fermented herbs, poisons, animal tissue, honey, and various other ingredients.

The Anatomy Theatre, designed in the shape of an amphitheatre and adorned with wooden sculptures depicting renowned university anatomists and celebrated physicians, hosted some of Europe's earliest human dissections. Despite the presence of depictions of "gli spellati", or skinned cadavers, supporting a canopy, the tiered seats and professors' podium lack any macabre elements. Although the Church initially prohibited regular dissection sessions, when they did occur, they became popular public events. Photographs at the entrance showcase the devastation suffered by this wing of the building during the 1944 bombardment, yet immediate post-war reconstruction efforts utilized salvaged original wooden sculptures retrieved from the rubble.

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Archiginnasio Palace on Map

Sight Name: Archiginnasio Palace
Sight Location: Bologna, Italy (See walking tours in Bologna)
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Bologna, Italy

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